This weekend is the summer’s biggest box office head-to-head, with both The Hangover Part III and Fast & Furious 6 opening. Well, technically Hangover is opening on Thursday. (And we can’t forget about Epic!) Both films come out of multi-multi-million dollar franchises; both cost multi-multi millions to make. And both have a really good chance of making more than $200 million at the box office. But now that the actual weekend has arrived, it’s safe to say that one will emerge the clear winner…and it’s going to be Fast 6.
Here’s how the box office may play this weekend:
1. Fast & Furious 6 — $90 million
Fast 5 opened to $86 million back in 2011 and anticipation for the next film has only increased. Each new installment since the series’ revival in 2009 has built on the previous opening weekend, and it’s safe to say that will hold true again. So what’s hedging my bet that it breaks $100 million, especially given the four-day weekend? Hangover will be a limiting factor, and the previous two Fast films had the benefit of opening at the end of April, away from the clutter of tent pole season. The good news is that advance word on the film, made for $160 million, is quite strong. (We gave it a B+.) Tracking suggests a four-day opening north of $80 million, but that sounds soft given the franchise’s accumulated goodwill. A $90 million opening at 3,659 locations is in line with the growth in each opening while reflecting the crowded marketplace. Bonus: Fast 6 has already opened in the U.K, where it’s made more than $13 million — a positive sign for strong foreign grosses. (Fast 5 made $30 million in the U.K. in its entire run.)
2. The Hangover Part III — $73 million
Like the Fast & Furious franchise only in reverse: The Hangover debuted to a surprisingly robust $44 million in 2009, became the comedy of the summer, and then wrecked most audience expectations with a less-than-stellar sequel — and still opened to almost $86 million (just like Fast 5). Many new converts to the franchise were turned off by the sophomore slump, but marketing for the third film has been insistently tongue-in-cheek about the finality of the third installment, while still fronting breakout star Zach Galifianakis (and a poor giraffe). Part III pulled in $3.1 million at its late-night Wednesday showings, lower than Part II. Splitting the sentiments to the third film means splitting the difference between the first and second opening grosses, and accounting for its super-long holiday, giving The Hangover Part III a $73 million five-day opening at 3,555 locations — ironically close to the opening for Fast & Furious. (Okay, I’ll stop.) There’s one black lining: Warner Bros. produced the film for $100 million, though the franchise’s huge international appeal could offset the increased production cost.
3. Star Trek Into Darkness — $45 million
The Star Trek sequel is the puzzle of the summer, riding a wave of good reviews and tight-lipped mystery into theaters, and what many predicted would be an $100 million opening gross. The reality was a $70 million weekend (less than the first film) and $83 million for the first four days. The first preboot fell by 43 percent in its second weekend. A mish-mash of mini backlashes (Alice Eve in her underwear; Benedict Cumberbatch doing…something) suggest that the drop-off this time may be a touch steeper. Expect $45 million for the holiday weekend.
4. Epic — $37 million
Blue Sky’s latest animated film is the first family-friendly opening in months, but the studio’s non-Ice Age films open quieter than, say, Pixar movies. Rio, Blue Sky’s last non-sequel, opened to $39 million in 2011. Despite grumblings that the film mixes pieces from Avatar and FernGully, and mixed-message marketing, Epic has met with warm critical reception — and, like I said, it’s entering a marketplace that is starved for colorful entertainment. Tracking suggests an opening in the mid-30s, somewhere between Rio and Robots. The $93 million film should play well into June, when Monsters University opens. Expect $37 million from 3,882 locations.
5. Iron Man 3 — $24 million
Each week’s drop has been smaller than the last, so a 45 percent drop from last week’s $35 million, plus that extra day, would mean a $24 million fourth weekend and give the supercharged superhero sequel more than $350 million at the domestic box office.
Good news: Grady will be back from vacation and resuming box office prognostication next week. Check back on Sunday and Monday to see how my predictions shake out, and share your own in the comments.